Popular music (or in short, pop)
has always existed in the form of folk songs performed in front of an audience,
unlike art music, that was rational and
performed in formal "necktie" concerts. The lighter popular music
was performed for the sake of the masses that did not consider music as
culture but rather as entertainment.
In the 20th century,
pop music became an industry of entertainment for the masses that indeed
sprouted some artistic achievements, yet, in most cases, addressed the
biggest audience possible, without artistic pretensions. Electronic media,
radio and television at the time, and the development of cheap distribution
means like vinyl records and later the CDs - made pop music a successful
industry in which accomplished singers and players become millionaires.
Artists as Michael Jackson,
and Bruce Springsteen
are now superstars whose success exceeds the musical arena and their image
is handled by a system of image and marketing consultants inconceivable
in the terms of previous generations.
every other pop phenomenon of the 20th century, stands an amazing artistic
legend which is pop music's highest achievement ever - The
This band and its four members, influenced and continues to influence generations
of musicians and pop lovers. Their staggering success and the unprecedented
fan phenomenon (called "Beatlmania" at its time) demonstrates
well the fact that even pure art such as the music of this band can gain
popularity and the love of the audience. The Beatles were inspired by many
elements, from European classical music
to Indian music.
which is a more rugged style in pop, originated in Blues
and black soul
music in America,
and now uses an appropriate form of expression for bands and artists of
rather heavier style than the very light trend called "Mainstream".
The first and one of the biggest stars of rock was Elvis
The development of electronic instruments
and especially synthesizers
and electric keyboards, contributed a great
deal to the new sound of rock and pop music of today, and modern
styles, such as Dance,
are based on extensive use of synthesizers, computers and programmed sound
Popular music Styles
Abbreviation for 'popular'. The popular, mainstream,
melodic, light and more commercialized music. Pop groups usually include
electric effects and most pop songs are sung by solo or group vocalists.
Main figures: Barbra Streisand, Madonna, Michael
Rock & Roll
Rock & Roll sources are Blues,
Rhythm & Blues,
and American Countrymusic.
Bill Haley, with his greatest hit “Rock
Around the Clock”, created a danceable and catchy music that became
highly popular among youth, with an insistent and strong back beat and
mostly three chords. With simple lyrics and black blues and rhythm and
blues influences, Haley and others succeeded in making Rock & Roll
the young white audiences' music.
Main figures: Bill Haley, Chuck Berry, Buddy
Holly, Elvis Presley, The Beatles
A generic term, type of popular music which has spread
since the 1950s from the US
to the rest of the Western world. It originated
from Rock & Roll
and began as a fusion of styles such as Country
Rock became energetic and rebellious, changing every few years. It is only
natural for a genre that began its life as a fusion of styles, that Rock
has been fragmented into new styles and variations, such as Heavy
and Soft rock,
Progressive rock, Punk
and New wave.
Main figures: Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Bruce
Commercial and smooth genre which emerged the early 1970s,
partially as a reaction to the extreme and psychedelic sounds of the late
Soft rock artists like those below created simple and
melodic songs with big and rich productions.
Main figures: Elton John, Phil Collins, Paul
Simon, Paul McCartney, Carpenters, Chicago
An aggressive and heavily amplified style of rock. Characterized
by the powerful, loud guitar
riffs, 'power chords' and rigid rhythms. In the 1970s, heavy metal
established itself as one of the most commercially successful forms of
Rock & Roll.
The electric guitar is the center of the Heavy metal rock. Technical skills
of guitarists in this style have always been very high and some of them
are considered innovators in guitar techniques and speed.
Main figures: Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple, Aerosmith,
Led Zeppelin, Metallica
A type of religious popular song that succeeded black
Gospel singing is usually accompanied by instruments such as organ,
and it may merge into ecstatic dance. Emerging in the 19th century, as
a white music, black gospel music developed by the 1930s, out of the combination
of the earlier hymns and some elements from black spirituals.
Main figures: Mahalia Jackson, Sister Rosetta
Country music grew out of South-American
folk music, and cowboy South-western music.
This music is simple in form and in harmony,
usually vocalized in romantic or sad ballads, accompanied by fiddles,
In the 1940s, a style named 'Bluegrass music' grew from the country music
and combined elements of dance, entertainment and religious folk music.
Main figures: Loretta Lynn, Hank Williams, Willie
Rhythm & Blues
Grew out of the Blues
in the 1940s, Rhythm & Blues was the basis of Rock
It used Blues chord changes played with an insistent backbeat, by an ensemble,
with an emphasis on the song rather than improvisation. Eventually, Rhythm
& Blues metamorphosed into soul
music and the commercialized Rock & Roll.
Main figures: Ray Charles, The Drifters, Percy
African-American musicians from the 1960s created this
commercial, urban version of Rhythm & Blues.
The term describes a number of music styles from different regions of America,
such as the Motown pop-soul of Detroit, to
the sound of Philadelphia, Chicago,
and others. Soul music involves dramatic vocal
techniques, such as falsetto
and sighs, which became its trademarks in the pop music scene.
Main figures: Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding,
Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross
Black American popular music which developed in the late
1960s, as musicians began to combine the Rock
textures and improvisations and black Soul
music. Uses very complex and syncopated rhythmic patterns.
Main figures: James Brown, Sly Stone, Prince,
In the late 1970s, on both sides of the Atlantic, a few
eccentric and outrageous bands played loud, fast, insistent music with
protest, violent and abusive lyrics. In London,
the first punk band was the Sex Pistols, who
were thought of as a serious threat to the political order and caused countless
Punk bands to form. Musically, Punk musicians returned Rock
to the basics of three chords
and a simple melody.
After a short time, punk splintered into the experimental
post-punk, the pop New wave,
and the faster, harder, abrasive Hardcore.
Main figures: the Sex Pistols, Stranglers
A dissonant, electronic, distorted, rather avant-garde
and abrasive style of music that grew out of the electronic experiments
of some 1970s bands.
Main figures: Ministry, Skinny Puppy
Progressive rock / Art rock
Progressive Rock fused rock music with elements of classical
and European folk
music. The results were long and complex, semi-experimental, instrumental-vocal
works. Just like a classical programme work,
an art rock album mostly tried to tell a story or to describe a subject.
A few of them drew their inspiration from the classical opera
and were defined as 'Rock operas'. Whereas Progressive rock was
more improvisational and allowed influences by psychedelic and Jazz
music, Art rock showed a tendency toward mystical imagery with medieval
(middle ages) symbols and lyrics.
Main figures: Pink Floyd, Yes, Genesis, Rick
Wakeman, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, King Crimson, Camel
General term for the music that followed punk from the
late 1970s. Contrary to the challenging and arty post-punk, new wave was
music without many pretensions. Many influences seem to be upon
New wave musicians like Duran Duran with their
productions, Madness with the Ska
(a British-Jamaican dance music), Police with
and the Rock & Roll
of The Pretenders. In the early 1980s and
until the mid 1980s, the new MTV broadcast New Wave video clips extensively,
in order to fill their programs, and gave a boost to this music.
Main figures: the Human League, Culture
Club, Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran, The Pretenders,
Blondie, Level 42, The Police
An urban popular music and dance style, originating in
Jamaica in the mid-1960s, by local musicians
who were influenced by American
music they heard on the radio, and they fused it with traditional
African-Jamaican music. The characteristic
rhythmic texture is an amalgam of short ostinatos on electric
emphasizing the off-beats of quadruple metre. Through the Reggae music,
which became most popular all over the world, Bob
Marley and the Wailers (his band) proclaimed
the Rastafarian religious movement's beliefs.
Main figures: Bob Marley, Toots and the Maytals,
UB40, Inner Circle, Ziggy Marley